The Vikings defensive line got younger last season, plugging in three new starters in their 20s in tackles Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd and end Everson Griffen. The unit showed flashes but lacked consistency in its first year playing together. All four starters, including veteran end Brian Robison, return this season, and the goal is to dominate the line of scrimmage weekly.
“We know each other, and we know what we can do well,” Floyd said. “We know how to play with each other and off each other. I think that gives us an edge … knowing how to talk to each other.”
The unit already was deep at defensive tackle, with a solid backup tandem of Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen, but the Vikings should be better at defensive end. Justin Trattou has improved noticeably over the past year, while Scott Crichton and rookie Danielle Hunter can spot the starters in certain situations.
The defensive line also will have a bit more freedom in the second year under coach Mike Zimmer. That could create more tackles for loss, but also generate big running lanes if the gamble fails. The Vikings allowed 121.4 rushing yards per game last year, which was ranked 25th in the NFL.
“We have to come in week in and week out and own the line of scrimmage,” Floyd said. “There’s no other way around it. The games we played really well, we dominated the line of scrimmage. If we can do that for 16 games, I think we’ll all be happy.”